Z’ Big Fireplace Makeover!

Our home is a century old, and one of the things that I immediately fell in love with was the fact that it had a fireplace! I LOVE fireplaces, and I felt really grateful to have a working one, because most of the fireplaces in older Los Angeles homes are no longer operational for one reason or another.

When we moved in, this is what the fireplace looked like:

Not bad, but definitely not great! It just seemed incomplete.

The home generally features a mix of California/Spanish bungalow and Craftsman-style elements, so I was hoping to keep the fireplace’s design in that general aesthetic.

The best place to start, I figured, would be a mantel. I couldn’t tell if there was a mantel originally that was removed at some point or if it was always this way, but it seemed like an important part of my “fireplace vision.” I hit a couple of antique stores, only to find a few MASSIVE mantels that were really expensive. As a long shot, I checked to see if there happened to be any on Craigslist. Lo and behold, the very first time I looked, there was a mantel that seemed to be the perfect size! I reached out to the person with the ad to double check the measurements listed, and decided to go ahead and drive to Long Beach to see it. For $40, I picked it up and loaded it in the car…and miraculously it was the goldilocks mantel: JUST RIGHT!

In my excitement to get it installed, I didn’t take many pictures of the mantel’s “behind” (you didn’t know mantels have a behind?!?!). In the picture below, though, you can see that I simply nailed a small board to the underside of the mantel’s top.

That board fits perfectly into a bracket I attached to the wall, that you’ll see in this pic (sorry the pic is not closer up):

This allows the mantel to literally be lifted up and off the wall (which has proved to be very helpful when dealing with cables running from the television mounted above it. On that subject, I had to cut a little section out of the mantel just below the TV for the cables (right photo below). I also had to leave space on the side of the inner part of the mantel to access the lever/key for turning the gas on (left photo below).

Finding the mantel was a BIG win certainly, but I’ve also been a sucker for brick fireplaces as long as I can remember. They’re timeless in my mind, and often a hallmark of homes from the classic design-styles mentioned earlier.

I had absolutely NO experience with masonry or bricks, and I didn’t feel prepared to tear out the tiles surrounding the fireplace and essentially start from scratch. My dad had good experiences using “Z Bricks” on a couple projects, though, and ultimately I thought that might be a good way to go.

If you haven’t seen brick veneers before, check ’em out! They’re real bricks, just very thin.

There are many options of bricks available, so take your time choosing the right ones. I ended up going with the “Colonial Bricks” by Old Mill, which I was happy about; it had a cool, faded look that matched the classic “100 year-old house” look I was after.

Once the bricks arrived, I spent a few evenings in the living room playing around with different layout possibilities. Once I settled on one, I “committed” to it by adhering the bricks directly to the old tile with VersaBond thin-set mortar.

Then I filled in the spaces between the bricks with Quikrete Mortar Mix:

And now we’re ready to put the mantel back in place! The mantel actually covers the tile that you see peaking around the edge of the bricks in the photo just above the mortar close-up. I was really pleased with how it all turned out, and I hope that you agree. Check it out:

Here’s to winter and evenings cuddled up on the couch!

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.


Toe Knee

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